The regular season is over. Adios to 16 teams, who now await the bouncing of some ping-pong balls before they will truly know the future of their franchise.
That resulted in a number of those teams already making significant changes. The Penguins cleaned out their front office, and justifiably so. The Ducks fired their coach, which was one of those “thanks for getting us through the rebuild, but we’re moving on now” decisions that makes a bit of sense. The Capitals mutually agreed to part ways with their coach. Little doubt more changes are coming in the next day or three, and probably even after the first round is over in a couple weeks.
But we’re not here to mourn the bad teams. We’re here to praise the perfect beautiful nice three stars of the week, which I know.
3. Giving it one last push
David Pastrnak entered the last week of the season three goals away from 60 with four games to play, and a soft schedule in which to do it.
Sure, you start with New Jersey. Tough game. Bruins only won 2-1 and that was on two goals by former Devil and Pastrnak linemate Pavel Zacha, but no one wants to see Pastrnak get a single primary assist.
After that game, though? There was ample opportunity for Pastrnak to empty the tank, and boy did he ever. He needed three goals in three games and he said, “What about three goals in 18 minutes against the Flyers?” Bruins cruised to a win in that one, he got to 60, and the next two games against the Capitals and Canadiens felt like gravy. He didn’t score in the first one, but did add two more secondary assists, and then netted his 61st and final goal of the season on Thursday in an absolutely meaningless game against the Habs, which the Bruins won easily.
In the end, Pastrnak had 61 goals and 113 points, both are cap-era Bruins records by wide margins. The next-closest goalscorer is Pastrnak himself in 2019-20 (cut short by the pandemic) with 48 in 70. The next-closest all-around scorer is Brad Marchand with 100 points in 2018-19.
In fact, you have to go back to 1993 to find a Bruin with more points than Pastrnak posted this year (Adam Oates with 142!) and 1974 to find someone who scored more goals (Phil Esposito with 68). It’s really sick to do something like this in 2023, after decades of insanely low-scoring hockey.
2. Just barely pulling it off
Big-time “Mission Accomplished” banner being sent to Sunrise right now, because the Florida Panthers barely scraped into the playoffs by beating out a team that fully checked out of the season after trading for Mikael Granlund and, hmm, says here “the Buffalo Sabres.”
I feel like this is gonna be something I harp on a lot in the next couple weeks, but this should not be seen as some kind of victory for the Panthers. They won the Presidents’ Trophy last season by a wide margin and while that felt like it was overperformance, to only finish eighth with a worse points percentage than the Calgary Flames – a team that feels hours away from announcing it won’t be bringing back the GM and won’t let the coach keep his current job – is pathetic. There’s no other way to say it.
Yeah, injuries. That’s the kind of thing loser teams whine about at this time of year; you’ll basically never see official PR statements that say “man-games lost” before April 5 in your entire life.
But I guess you can call this season a success, insofar as they ended up in the top half of their conference. But if they get ground into dust by the Bruins, which feels like a pretty likely outcome even with their dangerous scorers, you gotta wonder how they feel the whole “get a new coach after all that success” thing is viewed internally.
1. 50 the hard way
This is the kind of thing that probably isn’t very easy to look up, but Brayden Point got his 50th goal of the season in his final game, then scored his 51st into an empty net a few minutes later.
After the game, Jon Cooper noted that Point reached the 50-goal milestone despite not scoring a single empty-netter until that last one of the season.
How many guys in NHL history do you think scored their first 50 of a season with a goalie in the net? It’s gotta be a really short list, if not one that says “Brayden Point” and comes to an end. One would certainly imagine that the list of guys who scored 50 without an ENG and then got an ENG for 51 and then his season ended is definitely a one-man list. (Apparently Brett Hull didn’t score a single empty-netter in the year he scored 86. That feels impossible, but it’s really, really impressive.)
Nonetheless, you gotta give it up for a guy who’s struggled to stay healthy the last few full seasons and hasn’t even cleared 40 since 2018-19 for blowing past it on a team that frankly needed all the offensive help they could get this season. They scored a decent number of goals (280) but much more of the offense ran through Point, and if he hadn’t gone off like this, they might have been in tough to replace what he was bringing to the table most nights. Really fun player, too. Ultimate respect.